Housing Starts Edge Upward in March 2022

Up by 0.3% from February and by 3.9% from a year ago, beating estimates

In March 2022, privately owned housing starts increased by 0.3% from February on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, the U.S. Census Bureau reported on April 19, 2022. Meanwhile, privately owned housing completions fell by 4.5% from February, but building permits for privately owned building units rose by 0.4%. Compared to March 2021, these figures were up by 3.9%, down by 13.0%, and up by 6.7%, respectively.

The March 2022 housing starts figure of 1,793,000 was 2.8% higher than the consensus estimate among economists polled by Reuters, which was 1,745,000. The upbeat report on March housing starts follows a gloomier report from homebuilders, with the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) dropping to a seven-month low in early April.

Key Takeaways

  • Housing starts in March 2022 were up slightly compared to February and up more substantially year over year.
  • Economists had expected a drop in housing starts from February to March.
  • Housing completions were down both from February and year over year.
  • Building permits rose slightly from February but were up more significantly year over year.

Housing Starts Detail

Privately owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,793,000. This was 0.3% above the revised February estimate of 1,788,000 and 3.9% above the March 2021 rate of 1,725,000.  

Single‐family housing starts in March were at an annual rate of 1,200,000. This was 1.7% below the revised February figure of 1,221,000.

Housing Completions Detail

Privately owned housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,303,000. This was 4.5% below the revised February estimate of 1,365,000 and 13.0% below the March 2021 rate of 1,497,000.  

Single‐family housing completions in March were at a rate of 1,000,000. This was 6.4% below the revised February rate of 1,068,000. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 574,000.

Building Permits Detail

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,873,000.  This was 0.4% above the revised February rate of 1,865,000 and 6.7% above the March 2021 rate of 1,755,000.  

Single‐family authorizations in March were at a rate of 1,147,000. This was 4.8% below the revised February figure of 1,205,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 672,000 in March.

Interpreting the Data

The new residential construction report for March 2022 includes explanatory notes. Among them is this advisory: "In interpreting changes in the statistics in this release, note that month‐to‐month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics often show movements which may be irregular. It may take three months to establish an underlying trend for building permit authorizations, six months for total starts, and six months for total completions."

Furthermore, the figures for housing starts and housing completions are estimates based on sample surveys. As a result, they may be subject to sampling errors, and thus the report gives confidence intervals, or ranges of likely values, for these measures.

Regarding initial monthly estimates and later data revisions, the notes indicate: "On average, the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimates of total building permits, housing starts and housing completions are revised 2.2 percent or less."

Article Sources

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  1. U.S. Census Bureau. "Monthly New Residential Construction, March 2022."

  2. Investopedia. "Homebuilders See Weaker Market in Early April 2022."

  3. CNBC. "U.S. Housing Starts Unexpectedly Rise in March; Building Permits Increase."

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